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The Workers Who Make the Clouds

David Perez

Hardly a day goes by without news of the multi-sided impact of the digital world, how it shapes our individual lives and our collective future. Curse and cure and contradiction, it’s all unfolding before us at hyper-speed, and it’s often difficult to keep up with all the latest gadgets and inventions.

As I try to decipher what’s going on, there’s a crucial side to the equation, however, that I also try not to forget, namely that with all the talk about artificial intelligence and virtual realities, it’s actual flesh and blood human labor that’s behind it all.

In his comprehensive and educational book, “Coders” (2019 Penguin Press), tech writer Clive Thompson tells the story of computer programmers, a workforce that is undoubtedly one of the “most quietly influential on the planet.” Thompson writes:

You use software nearly every instant you’re awake. There’s the obvious stuff, like your phone, your laptop, email and social networking and video games and Netflix, the way you order taxis and food. But there’s also less-obvious software lurking all around you. Nearly any paper book or pamphlet you touch was designed using software; code inside your car manages the braking system; ‘machine-learning’ algorithms at your bank scrutinize your purchasing activity.

While the field isn’t something I plan to pursue (I’m too much of a wannabe Luddite for that to happen), it was fascinating to learn more about what programming actually is; its language; how the work combines engineering and art, logic and puzzle-solving, passion and patience.

I also learned more about the people that do the work; how they think and why; the heady impact of being able to literally change the world overnight, particularly when an app or program generates millions of global users. Of special interest was the history, beginning with the first coders:

Brilliant and pioneering women, who, despite crafting some of the earliest personal computers and programming language, were later written out of history.”

“Coders” affirmed two things for me. One is that in the struggle for social justice and human liberation, coders are a decisive force for success—arguably the decisive force, particularly in any pursuit of a People’s Internet, or at the very least a People’s Media. Indeed, the digital battlefield is paramount, whether we’re embracing it, fleeing from it, or a little of both.

My second affirmation was being reminded, as I stated in the beginning, about the power of the working class. The Internet, embedded in the lives of billions around the globe, is routinely compared to a cloud, a place without place, without distance. But that’s an illusion. All it takes is for service to go down for us to realize that someone has to fix it, be it a broken fiber optic cable, a damaged router, or a down electrical line.

When we rely on the Internet, we rely on workers, from mainframe engineers to computer programmers to office workers to maintenance personnel. In his 2012 book, Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet, Wired correspondent Andrew Blum describes how the Internet is:

as fixed in real physical places any railroad or telephone ever was. It fills enormous buildings, converges in some places and avoids others, and it flows through tubes underground, up in the air and over the oceans all over the world. You can map it, can smell it, and you can even visit it.”

There is a human, geographic side to the worldwide web, intricate and utterly interdependent on the other: Those who keep the power going and the work stations clean; the workers who mine and extract the silicon, the silver, copper, mercury, aluminum, tin, lead, and all the rare earth elements; the vast and global workforce that assembles the computers, smartphones and tablets. Then there are those who do the shipping and delivery, who dispose of the toxic and radioactive electronic waste.

So, as we debate the pros and cons of things like Blockchain and Cryptocurrency, weigh whether a technology can either free us or imprison us, let us never want to forget that machines, apps and devices are social products made by social beings—us.

David Perez is a writer, journalist, activist, and actor living in Taos, New Mexico

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Mr Y
Mr Y
Apr 13, 2021 10:59 AM

Fact: The “clouds” aren’t anything like real clouds but heaps and heaps of energy guzzling computers and cooling devices.

Floyd
Floyd
Apr 14, 2021 5:14 PM
Reply to  Mr Y

The “Cloud” is just someone else’s computer =D

Peter
Peter
Apr 13, 2021 4:28 AM

Has this forum ever discussed the human and environmental hazards of 5G and mobile phones in general ?

magumba
magumba
Apr 13, 2021 1:06 AM

Hollerith has a lot to answer for…vaczine pass macht frei

https://hbr.org/podcast/2019/11/lessons-from-ibm-in-nazi-germany

Martin Usher
Martin Usher
Apr 12, 2021 8:10 PM

The history of computing is really the history of work — at least, office work. Businesses and bureaucracy rely on the flow and storage of information, developing processes that were initally completely manual but were graudually automated over the last 150 years or so. This started with Hollerith and punched cards, adapting that older idea that goes back to at last the 18th century to use machinery to sort, county and tabulate. Replicating both these machines and the overall office workflow was (I think) the real genius of Grace Hopper — it wasn’t the invention of the COBOL language that was important but understand why such a language needed to exist and how it fitted into business practice that was the crticial step. (Early computers were seen as electronic’ brains’ and were primarily thought as tools for computing in a literal sense rather than devices for managing information.)

The Internet isn’t anything particulary special, its just a tool for communicating data. It has its intricacies but, like computers, what we ‘see’ isn’t really the infrastructure but an expression of that infrastructure into one or more forms that are familiar to us. (We send messages that resemble old fashioned letters and telegrams, we talk with something resembling a phone, we entertain ourselves with things that mimic broadcast radio and TV.) Sometimes these forms don’t reflect the underlying machinery at all but the abstractions are sufficiently concrete that people — and legislators — start treating them as real. The cloud is just an abstraction, its actually a return to an early concept of computing as a centralized service that you rent as necessary but instead of there being just a handful of computers there are literally millions of them, widely distrubted by geograph, that can be automatically configured to manage the workload asked of them. (Business likes the ‘as a service’ model because it was recognized by even the earliest pioneers — Herman Hollerith — that if there was one thing better than selling a piece of kit it was renting it out.)

As for the workforce that assembles this machinery, its no different from the workforce that assembled — and still assembles and maintains — earlier technologies. The difficulty here is getting people used to the idea that all this didn’t happen by magic. It needs ongoing work to maintain and improve it. Forgetting this results all sorts of bad things, like unpotable water, unreliable power and, of course, less than satisfactory Internet connections (and spotty to non-existent customer service).

Floyd
Floyd
Apr 14, 2021 5:51 PM
Reply to  Martin Usher

I was fortunate to hear Grace Hopper speak when I was in college. A small auditorium with maybe 30 folks. She was a phenomenal speaker. She gave all of us a “nanosecond” – about 12″ of wire. She held up a large coil of wire and said she couldn’t afford to give us all a microsecond.
What a great woman

R Anand
R Anand
Apr 12, 2021 3:09 PM

Good points in this short article. I had the same views about AI, blockchain etc. This article reaffirmed my views.

Rhisiart Gwilym
Rhisiart Gwilym
Apr 11, 2021 9:27 PM

This is why the already-begun Long Descent away from hitech industrial society is so crucial. When the physical infrastructure, and the intricate patchwork of technical and engineering skills, which the internet absolutely requires to keep functioning (along with all the steadily-depleting exotic minerals needed too) are no longer available in adequate amounts, then the – entirely-notional – Cloud starts to evaporate. Sometime in the next few centuries, as the Descent continues its already-begun trajectory, we shall likely see the WWW break up, become regional, local, and finally fragmentary; before eventually disappearing altogether into legendary history.

Such a bugger for the poor techno-narcissists! 🙂

Kika
Kika
Apr 11, 2021 10:55 PM

Nerds will become an endangered species. Goodie. Can hardly wait.

martin
martin
Apr 12, 2021 5:52 AM

The ‘intricate patchwork of technical and engineering skills’ probably depends as much on the internet. Is there any going back? Where will the engineers be without it? It’s easy to imagine all the steps being taken in reverse order, specially when you have lived to see it built up, but I doubt later generations can imagine what it takes.

mgeo
mgeo
Apr 12, 2021 11:14 AM

Next few centuries: You’re such an optimist.

Martin Usher
Martin Usher
Apr 11, 2021 7:52 PM

In reality there are many different types of programmers, all with different skillsets and levels of competence. A ‘coder’, for example, is usually just that — someone who takes a set of requirements and mechanizes them for a particular system. Its a skilled job, but in the same way that an auto technician as a skilled job is not the same skillset that could design a vehicle much less engineer it for mass production. We could say that what sets programmers apart from other types of engineering is that they work in the abstract but then most physical design work is now done on computers — also in the abstract — with the physical relaization only occuring fairly late in the design cycle.

I’ve been writing code for about 50 years for all sorts of platforms. My sort of work is the ‘nuts and bolts’ type of programming, one of the people that realize the physical machine that becomes the platform that others might write ‘apps’ for. It sounds esoteric — and it is, in a way — but I always encourage people to ‘have a go’ because its really just common sense and logic, it just sounds strange and difficult because of the layers of complexity that we wrap around it (oddly enough, in an attempt to simplify the machine so its more usable). The ‘knack’, such as it is, is understanding the layering and being able to selectively ignore or focus on sections of a machine, managing complexity so its understandable. (Many people go at this by trying to understand the whole; its actually doable for some systems and some people — up to a point. Then you get a really bad headache!)

mgeo
mgeo
Apr 12, 2021 11:21 AM
Reply to  Martin Usher

The article did not try much to make any point. The threats of the digital/ICT paradigm include deterioration in language among people (necessary to convey specs/functions/interfaces/instructions), inherent cutting of corners, out-of-control complexity and hubris.

Moneycircus
Moneycircus
Apr 11, 2021 6:42 PM

What’s the media hiding today?

Rapper DMX’s family say he’d got the jab a week before his heart attack.

First Celebrity Mass Shooter — NFL’s Philip Adams kills doc and grandchildren. What’d he get?

George Floyd’s death from a drug overdose. And no neck. Got that: no neck.

The ludicrous Hunter Biden charade.

Moneycircus
Moneycircus
Apr 11, 2021 6:58 PM
Reply to  Moneycircus

Each of those stories has in common drugs past, drugs present, drugs taken away, drugs given, drugs licit, drugs illicit.

Drugs (licit and illicit) are one of the world’s top four businesses, along with war, energy and human trafficking.

Marfanoi
Marfanoi
Apr 11, 2021 9:58 PM
Reply to  Moneycircus

We are all on drugs.paz.

mgeo
mgeo
Apr 12, 2021 12:16 PM
Reply to  Moneycircus

In 2014, of the total $1,600-2,200 billion in illicit transfers, $430-650 billion was for illegal narcotics; this was the 2nd. activity after counterfeiting. -info. from Global Financial Integrity c. 2017.
Of course, the medical industry succeeded in legalising some of this torrent of money.

richard
richard
Apr 12, 2021 4:34 PM
Reply to  Moneycircus
Felder Dixie
Felder Dixie
Apr 11, 2021 5:51 PM

We are in the process of and on a very long road to revealing EVERYTHING, by virtue of the internet, and those threatened by that are getting very scared.

Watt
Watt
Apr 11, 2021 5:28 PM

Well, maybe there’s an Achilles heel around the corner!

Felder Dixie
Felder Dixie
Apr 11, 2021 5:46 PM
Reply to  Watt

Throw your phone in a crusher and you are free man again.

Steamin, psycho
Steamin, psycho
Apr 11, 2021 7:02 PM
Reply to  Felder Dixie

Don,t own one never will

Rhisiart Gwilym
Rhisiart Gwilym
Apr 11, 2021 9:30 PM

Snap! Also, never have.

Moneycircus
Moneycircus
Apr 11, 2021 5:25 PM

On John Ward’s blog, The Slog: Massive doubts raised about ethics & efficacy behind Oxford-Astrazenica “vaccine”

SP-I-MO stands for Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling. It reports into the SAGE/Secretary of State Number Ten Group. Almost nobody in the UK has ever heard of it, and its pronouncements online are stored in an unexpected place under the “assets publishing service”.
What follows aren’t leaks; they’re representative extracts from the latest SPIMO report, issued on March 31st last, and discussed in Downing Street some ten days ago.

  • ”assuming two doses of AstraZeneca provide only 31% effectiveness against transmission”.
  • “Immunisation failures account for more serious illnesses than unvaccinated individuals”.
  • “This shows that most deaths and admissions in a post-Roadmap resurgence are in people who have received two vaccine doses… This is not the result of vaccines being ineffective, merely uptake being so high.”

This fraudulent company is the one that plans to launch on the stock market, making Sarah Gilbert and Adrian Hill worth about 20 million each.

As Ward notes, “Vaccitech’s main investors include former top Deutsche Bank executives, Google and the UK government.” Gilbert and Hill are linked to Wellcome Trust and the Galton Eugenics Society.

“This is mind-blowing, horrific stuff. It suggests fakery, hidden intentions, manslaughter, genocidal agendas, and serial political lying on a scale beyond industrial. It also vindicates all those of us who have said throughout most of this saga that the “pandemic” presentation of SarsCov2 makes no fiscal, medical, social, cost-benefit, statistical or indeed scientific sense whatsoever.

The Astrazeneca drug has all the hallmarks of being a fake vaccine. The original Watergate questions must be asked again: “Who knew, what did they know, and when did they know it?”

simon
simon
Apr 11, 2021 7:09 PM
Reply to  Moneycircus

i mentioned to a vaccinated family member Hill’s eugenics beliefs(hoping to perhaps get him to think for himself and look at the data, rather than rely on the media), to apparent absolute indifference. from Yeadon’s warnings to ADE to actual eugenicists developing the vaccines, nothing seems to reach this person. the spell cast by the constant fear pouring out of the TV seems damnably effective.

Charlie
Charlie
Apr 11, 2021 8:51 PM
Reply to  simon

A friend of a friend here in Serbia thought the simplest way to get on a plane was to find himself a fake certificate of vaccination. Certificate looked ok but after he’d gone through the scanner at the airport they told him – you’re not vaccinated, sling your hook. This is ‘friend of a friend gossip’ of the first water, but it’s worth looking into don’t you think? Anyone heard any similar stories? Corbett had a lot of info on dyes in vaccines, perhaps they already have that tech in place.

awildgoose
awildgoose
Apr 11, 2021 11:59 PM
Reply to  Charlie

Interesting anecdote.

Any chance you can get more details?

Was his certificate supposed to have some kind of QR or barcode on it?

Which scanner flagged him? I’d bet it was one of the microwave type scanners.

mgeo
mgeo
Apr 12, 2021 12:20 PM
Reply to  awildgoose

The simplest explanation: someone scammed him.

mgeo
mgeo
Apr 12, 2021 12:19 PM
Reply to  simon

Blessed believers go straight to heaven.

vgin taos
vgin taos
Apr 11, 2021 3:29 PM

what an important and beautifully written article.

Jack Field
Jack Field
Apr 11, 2021 2:44 PM

The US has a jack-boot on the neck of the internet, via Apple, Google, Windows, twitter, Facebook and they are NOT being opposed by any government other than the Chinese, Russians and Iranians. that is all you need to know. Our governments have surrendered our rights, our data and our culture to them.

Peter
Peter
Apr 12, 2021 5:45 AM
Reply to  Jack Field

The Chinese, Russians and Iranians are complicit too. An operation of this scale can only be executed with a global government.

Corarden
Corarden
Apr 11, 2021 2:34 PM

St Vincent residents who have not had their Covid jabs are BANNED from being evacuated onto cruise ships after two volcanic eruptions on the Caribbean island, PM announces

St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said only people with Covid-19 vaccines can be evacuated
Cruise ships had volunteered to evacuate residents from the island following the two volcanic explosions
La Soufriere on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent erupted on Friday following warnings over last few months
The volcano erupted for a second time just six hours after the initial explosion but was smaller than the first
About 16,000 people are in the process of evacuating their homes in ‘red zones’ as ash cloud rises 10km
The University of the West Indies Seismic Center warned explosions could happen in coming days or weeks
Neighbouring nations have been sending emergency aid supplies such as cots and respiratory masks

Fixing Slem
Fixing Slem
Apr 11, 2021 3:23 PM
Reply to  Corarden

Which is the bigger risk, the volcano or the vaccine?

S Cooper
S Cooper
Apr 11, 2021 5:19 PM
Reply to  Corarden

“Shows yet again that THE SCAMDEMIC ‘Big Lie’ was never about health, safety and the well being of HUMANITY but about the furtherance of CORPORATE FASCIST wholesale theft, robbery and plunder.”

Kika
Kika
Apr 11, 2021 11:04 PM
Reply to  Corarden

After the volcano, I hope the non-jabbed residents of St. Vincent forbid the jabbed to return. There might be one place on earth which escapes the ‘virus’ and its aftermath.

mgeo
mgeo
Apr 12, 2021 12:24 PM
Reply to  Kika

Keep in mind how the rebels in Belarus, Tanzania, Sweden, etc. are being persuaded.

Jack Field
Jack Field
Apr 11, 2021 2:34 PM

I see it as a CIA operation from start to finish, to set-up the left, and to loot the world economy and accelerate US internet based dominance.

Where all the CIA backed US tech seems to have been designed specifically to replace traditional business and work best in government enforced lockdowns.

From business meetings to education to shopping to entertainment etc….That is no coincidence in my view.

And any non-US business that puts its information on a US cloud server, deserves to be looted/blackmailed because they will be, very soon.

S Cooper
S Cooper
Apr 11, 2021 5:24 PM
Reply to  Jack Field

The Cocaine Importers of America (CIA) is a transnational crime syndicate. No secret to that. The sooner the CORPORATE FASCIST WAR RACKETEERS and Langley-Land go the better off WE THE PEOPLE (HUMANITY) will be.”

gordan
gordan
Apr 11, 2021 2:17 PM

bbc radio still playing the sad songs
for the german that was never the greek
history revised ghoul becomes hero
normalcy for old blighty
playing all sides for foreign bankers of fishy fishmongers halls
in city of london
buying up the debris of the world for pennies in pound
cents on the dollar
corporation corps machine like circus moving
from country to country
changing sovereign to civil
offering benefits and privilege under contract conditions

to kings

a consort not as queen we never had
acts is all players pirates bankers
the law of the sea

the coronation stone was stolen
plastic rock put in it’s place

sir laurence olivier dear larry love
whispered the words
spelled it out in mock marlovian shakespear
spell craft cast it far and bbc live wide

a german marriage ziggy heil
what is england but a foreign shipping merchants playground
a tip of the spear machine for converting freemen into civil citizens under contracts
to perform

we are all actor now
bit part players
the slaves in the back ground

taking the beatings while crying for 99ner man who had sisters that dined with hitler
often in the eagles nest castle

the man that was never the greek
the persons that are slaves
the queen that never was and who’s legal acts are null and void

Jack Field
Jack Field
Apr 11, 2021 2:36 PM
Reply to  gordan

At lease we won’t see anymore ‘young virgins’ murdered for their blood near the royal estates, every time he gets a hospital blood transfusion.

Martin
Martin
Apr 11, 2021 8:07 PM
Reply to  gordan

A very brief and friendly amendment: “in ITS place”. “it’s” = short for “it is” [exclusively].

gordan
gordan
Apr 11, 2021 9:34 PM
Reply to  Martin

it channeled threw that way or through although the informationals may have been deflected via the tesla ether connections
it like a river that flows no time for corrections
it is what it is and can never be gainsayed
once flowing
a river stopped for a spell running for moments while capture
then gone
spell aaron spelling

Phonetics Phoenicians
babylon zoo
camp fema
etc etc

Patrick Corbett
Patrick Corbett
Apr 12, 2021 4:33 PM
Reply to  Martin

A short and friendly rejoinder. Many of of us use a Swype type of text input. It frequently selects the wrong word which is easily missed. It’s for its and vice versa is a common one. Its not like we don’t know the difference-just kidding.

Marfanoi
Marfanoi
Apr 11, 2021 10:06 PM
Reply to  gordan

Good one.Its curtains for them.

S Cooper
S Cooper
Apr 11, 2021 2:03 PM

“Computers are tools, instruments to be used by and for ALL of humanity for its so called betterment, not a way of life. Nor are they to be exploited by the few at the expense of the very many. Putting them into perspective they are one of long line of human technological development— some of the early ones being the use of flint tools/weapons, fire, agriculture and the wheel. What the WAR RACKETEER CORPORATE FASCIST OLIGARCH MOBSTER PSYCHOPATHS are doing with them is not only unacceptable it will be fought vigorously. Capiche?”

Howard
Howard
Apr 11, 2021 3:25 PM
Reply to  S Cooper

Who will it be fought by? The legion of smart phone zombies, who are obviously and inextricably addicted to and brainwashed by their little demi-gods which they lovingly hold and nestle against their existence? This is the army that will vanquish the psychopaths? Good luck with that one.

S Cooper
S Cooper
Apr 11, 2021 5:47 PM
Reply to  Howard

“I am of the school of thought “when the power grid goes down the blind obedience and complacency to insane authority soon follows, especially after the tummy gets empty. Is one to take it you are not of that school.”

rubberheid
rubberheid
Apr 12, 2021 8:33 PM
Reply to  S Cooper

3 meals away from chaos? i concur, but by fek it will get ugly!

Edwige
Edwige
Apr 11, 2021 2:01 PM

Vaccine passports are social products too although I’m not sure what good remembering that fact will do (am I supposed to feel warm and fuzzy?):

https://www.businessinsider.com/vaccine-passports-coronavirus-how-will-they-work-in-us-israel-2021-4?r=US&IR=T

The article does seem to ignore that the USA is a different political system to Israel. Two states have already outlawed Covid passports with at least two more looking like following imminently.

Time for the inter-state commerce clause to do its magic again?

mojo
mojo
Apr 11, 2021 1:28 PM

When you put up James Corbett’s “Science says” we’ll have summat to talk about.

mojo
mojo
Apr 11, 2021 1:24 PM

Just what IS the point of this article? It’s a tautological dead end.

Peter Abraham
Peter Abraham
Apr 11, 2021 1:18 PM

This site is clearly being redirected away from opposition to the global dystopia that has already enveloped us.

gordan
gordan
Apr 11, 2021 1:45 PM
Reply to  Peter Abraham

imagination said
it’s just an illusion bu bu bu bu waha
illusion
bu bu bu bu wa ha

the mirror tarkovsky
nicholas roeg and his mirror obsessions
acts legal fiction
god and his law
man woman
natural laws real living

roman law admiralty dead men at sea tell no tales
do you understand
do you understand
no

ohh just forget it

Loverat
Loverat
Apr 11, 2021 2:19 PM
Reply to  Peter Abraham

You mean Kit and Catte have been bought? You can check it out through Patreon. Last time I checked they were taking donations of 1500 per month dollars. If that has increased to 1 million, 1500 dollars per calender month, then Bill Gates is running things.

“Unlike the Guardian we are NOT funded by Bill & Melinda Gates, or any other NGO or government. So a few coins in our jar to help us keep going are always appreciated”.

Sam - Admin2
Admin
Sam - Admin2
Apr 11, 2021 2:37 PM
Reply to  Peter Abraham

I’ll have you know we’ve NEVER been opposed to Bill Gates and we’ve recently gained access to an extremely large legal budget in order to challenge each and every one of these baseless allegations. Bill Gates smiles on us all.

What is your address?

kidocelot
kidocelot
Apr 11, 2021 3:37 PM
Reply to  Sam - Admin2

Is this some sort of psyop sarcasm? I do hope!

dr death
dr death
Apr 11, 2021 10:51 PM
Reply to  Sam - Admin2

all web sites are i.p farms…

it’s just the nature of the ‘beast’…. he loves to keep his eye ‘in’…

all those posts from 2013 tracked and traced, then recycled for the court cases..

it could be be hard…. looking back and going forward..

‘stalin would approve’….

Jack Field
Jack Field
Apr 11, 2021 2:51 PM
Reply to  Peter Abraham

Is it that ‘international jewish banking’ fake conspiracy ….again ?

What is enveloping us is US power, nothing else. Who censors you tweets, your Facebook, your Facebook. Who decides what you are allowed to think or see on-line ? the CIA’s social media. Who decides what your banks are allowed to do and say? The US department of Justice. Who decided where Germany buys its gas? The US. Who Just shut down a British Vaccine production plant to switch to Johnson and Johnson’s vaccines in the U? , the US government of course. screwing everyone over.

Magie
Magie
Apr 11, 2021 4:38 PM
Reply to  Peter Abraham

If the main authors are funded / converted to the ones you not allowed to discuss.
So of course they push a angle direction.
look at the real fact check done in the last article by a member , they closed the thread – stop comments on it.
and i am sure he she will be banned

Shipintheknight
Shipintheknight
Apr 11, 2021 10:20 PM
Reply to  Magie

So why are you posting here?
I suggest your comment is classic muddying of the waters, stop looking over your shoulder or maybe Kit’s an alien…?